Thousands of groups come to Washington to lobby Congress. They come to seek more benefits. They come to seek more federal programs. They come to ask Congress to stretch its safety net a little more in their direction. Favors. Subsidies. Regulations. And all manner of federal intervention.
Today, home schoolers from all over America have come to Washington with a different philosophy and different goals.
We come not for handouts; we come to urge Congress to leave us alone. In particular we do not seek new assistance or programs from the Department of Education. We only want our independence. In fact the best thing the United States Department of Education could do to advance the quality of education in America would be to close its doors, go home, and send back our money.
The White House has tried, pretty much in vain, to impose a program of national testing on all children in America. The president has noted the discontent and concern of many American parents over the quality of their childrens education. His solution is yet another test. One wonders what he believes another test will show.
The Iowa Test of Basic Skills demonstrates that public school students are struggling with reading. The Stanford Achievement Test reveals that most students have a hard time with basic math.
The California Achievement Test discloses a nation which has failed to teach its students their own history.
These results do not reveal the need for better tests; they reveal the need for better instruction.
Home schoolers have found a way to bring better instruction for their children. Better instruction does not come from federal programs, subsidies, or meddlesome bureaucrats. It comes from parental involvement, common sense ideas like phonics, and from freedom.
There has been some difficulty in Washington with definitions lately . . . words like taxes and contributions . . . and even the definition of the word is.
As home schoolers we have gathered in Washington under the theme of Proclaim Liberty. I thought it would be appropriate to consider for just a minute the definition of liberty or freedom.
First and foremost, lets get the foundation laid correctly.
Freedom does not mean the right to do whatever you want to do. True freedom means the right to do whatever God wants you to do. It is never right to do that which is wrong in the eyes of a holy God.
But so long as we stay within the generous boundaries of Gods law, we should have freedom, and the fundamental role of our government should be to respect and protect that freedom, rather than being the biggest threat to our freedom.
The more laws this Congress passes, the less freedom we have. The more taxes the Congress conscripts from our families, the less freedom we have. The more regulations the federal agencies impose, the less freedom we have for our families, our businesses, and in our own personal lives.
There has been a fundamental shift in the nature of American government. It has gone from a government which is designed to protect our liberties, to a government which seeks to meet our needs.
We want freedom, not increased services and the taxes and regulations and intrusions that go with it.
One other point. If we are going to have liberty, we must, we must preserve the principle of self-government.
This Monday, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave his annual report to the General Assembly. He declared, State sovereignty, in its most basic sense, is being redefined by the forces of globalization and international cooperation.
What he means by this is that a nation can no longer decide for itself whether it will go to war. But as bad as that is, the UNs attack on sovereignty goes far deeper.
In the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, not only is the goal to invade our national and state sovereignty on issues affecting children and the family, the goal is to invade the family itself.
In his speech, Kofi Annan said that war is only justified in the common interest. But then he asked the right question, But what is the common interest? Who shall define it? Who will defend it? Under whose authority?
The following day, President Clinton addressed the UN General Assembly and, rather than defending the American principle of sovereignty, he expressly embraced the goal and the term globalism to reflect his policy and philosophy.
Our president may not have taken that occasion to defend sovereignty, but we choose this occasion to say that we will insist on sovereignty.
We will insist that our elected representatives here in Congressnot the UN, the president acting alone or in collaboration with international bodiesdecide when our country will go to war.
We will insist that our states, not the UN, should retain their sovereignty and primary jurisdiction to enact laws regarding the family and children.
And we will insist that the sovereignty of our families to make decisions concerning the education, religious instruction, discipline, and medical care of our children shall never be invaded by any sphere of government, especially not the unelected world meddlers at the UN.
Sovereignty means the right to make the decision. If our nation does not retain the right to make its own decisions, we no longer have self-government. And if we lose self-government, we lose freedom.
Freedom works. It has produced a great academic result for American home schooling families.
Freedom works for America as well. Some leaders may neglect it. Some may try to redefine it. But we are here today to declare our unshakable commitment to the traditional understanding of liberty.
Our nations future is better served by the principles embraced by the Founding Fathers at a great personal cost. They fought for freedom, for self-government, and for the right of a people to live in dignity under God.
May God grant us the strength to never, ever turn from these principles of liberty.